Family-Friendly Activities in Alaska
For your next family vacation, it's time to think big. As the country's largest state, Alaska serves up some big family-friendly adventures. You'll find activities state-wide that will appeal to folks of all ages, from wildlife viewing to hiking to adventures like ziplining and kayaking. Check out our top 5 family-friendly activities in Alaska:
1. Wildlife Viewing
Alaska is home to some of the most magnificent wildlife in the world, including brown and black bears, whales, moose, wolves, caribou, and so much more. Kids and parents alike will marvel at seeing Alaska’s diverse wildlife in their natural habitats on a wildlife viewing tour, and be sure to keep an eye out wherever you go, weather you're hiking, on a cruise or motorcoach tour, or just walking to dinner.
For guaranteed up-close views of Alaska’s wildlife, make sure to visit one (or more!) of the fantastic wildlife conservation and rehabilitation centers located throughout the state. These centers treat and rehabilitate injured and orphaned animals and support important research to protect Alaska’s land and marine wildlife. From bears to birds to belugas, Alaska’s conservation centers are a fantastic way to get face to face with Alaska’s wildlife. Many centers offer behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters so you can learn even more about the animals. Be sure to check out the following:
- Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka
- Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Anchorage
- Alaska Zoo in Anchorage
- American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines
- Fortress of the Bear in Sitka
- R.G. White Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks
- Sitka Sound Science Center in Sitka
If that weren’t enough, you can also make friends with reindeer at the Running Reindeer Ranch in Fairbanks and Reindeer Farm in Palmer, and take a walking tour among the musk ox at the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer.
No visit to Alaska is complete without lacing up those hiking boots and exploring on your own two feet. There are endless mountains to climb and miles to cover, and you’ll find a great selection of family-friendly hikes almost anywhere you go. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly hikes that lead to great views and wildlife viewing opportunities without being too long or strenuous:
- Mendenhall Glacier Nugget Falls Trail in Juneau
- Sitka National Historical Park Totem Trail and Mosquito Cove Trail in Sitka
- Battery Point Trail in Haines
- Powerline Pass and the Coastal Trail in Anchorage
- Winner Creek Trail and Virgin Creek Falls in Girdwood
- Tonsina Point and Exit Glacier in Seward
- Gold Mint Trail and Independence Mine State Historical Park in Hatcher Pass
- Thunderbird Falls Trail in Eagle River
- Savage River Trail in Denali National Park
- Creamers Field in Fairbanks
- Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park in Kodiak
Want some ideas for how to make your Alaska hikes as fun as possible for the little ones? Bring binoculars so your kids can get even better views of the wildlife and scenery. Have a scavenger hunt along the way. Look for walking sticks. Have kids carry a light backpack with some of their favorite snacks. Depending on age, don’t set your sights too high on distance. Build in some extra time for kids to explore at their own pace and enjoy the little things. If you’d rather let the experts lead the way, consider joining a guided hiking or glacier trekking tour.
3. Winter Activities
Winter or summer, Alaska offers fun for all ages. There are plenty of outdoor winter activities to keep you busy all day and then snuggle up with hot chocolate and quality family time in the evening. Get active with winter sports, including downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross country skiing, sledding, ice skating, fat tire biking, and snowshoeing. And don’t forget Alaska’s official state sport: dog mushing. The whole family will enjoy the thrill of riding behind a team of dogs as they speed through a snow-covered forest. Many dog kennels in Interior and Southcentral Alaska are open year-round and offer kennel tours and demonstrations before you hit the trail with the dogs for a dog sledding tour.
Winter in Alaska is also time to take part in some of the state’s best family-friendly festivals and events, including Fur Rondy, the World Ice Art Championships, and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. If you’re willing to keep the kids up a little late, consider joining a northern lights viewing tour, where experienced guides will take you to the best spots for northern lights viewing, sometimes outfitted with a warming hut and hot drinks to keep everyone warm and cozy.
4. Museums & Cultural Centers
Alaska is home to some world-class museums and cultural centers that will delight kids and adults with their interactive exhibits and opportunities to learn about Alaska’s diverse wildlife, history, and Alaska Native culture. Not to be missed is the Anchorage Museum with its fun and its interactive Discovery Center, full of hands-on exhibits and an impressive planetarium. Other top family-friendly museums and cultural centers in Alaska include:
- Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage
- University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks
- Alaska State Museum and Ladd Macaulay Visitor Center in Juneau
- Totem Bight State Historical Park, Saxman Native Village, and Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan
- Sitka National Historical Park in Sitka
- Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Kodiak
5. Tours (From ATVs to Ziplines)
There are enough tours and excursions in Alaska to fill a lifetime of trips, and you’ll find that most tours offer options that the whole clan can enjoy. Here are some of our top family-friendly tours, from A to Z:
- ATV tours that get you into the Alaska backcountry to view scenery and wildlife. Particularly popular in the Denali area, many operators offer muti-passenger ATVs so the kids can ride along for the fun.
- Day Cruises from towns like Seward, Whittier, Juneau, Valdez, Gustavus, and many other coastal communities in Alaska to see whales, wildlife, and glaciers. Many cruise companies offer half-day tours that are perfect for families, with educational kids programs and activities onboard.
- Flightseeing to get a better perspective of the sheer size of Alaska. Kids and adults will enjoy the bird’s eye view and the excitement of flying on a small plane, with some tours landing at remote locations – even on glaciers – for more exploration.
- Kayaking among protected coves from coastal communities throughout Alaska. Pick a family-friendly half-day tour that offers double kayaks for a fun way to get up-close views of marine wildlife and scenery. For even more of a thrill on the water, book a rafting day trip.
- Train Trips aboard the Alaska Railroad or the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad are a family favorite. The Alaska Railroad connects from Seward to Fairbanks, with multiple stops along the way for some fantastic day-trip options. Wildlife viewing, scenery, on-board snacks and dining, and entertaining narration are all part of the experience. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad departs from Skagway and explores Klondike Gold Rush history, with hiking drop-off options.
- Ziplines! Need we say more? Zoom through the trees on thrilling zipline rides in Interior, Southcentral, and Inside Passage communities. You’re sure to have some family bonding on this adrenaline-filled adventure.
No matter what you do, a family vacation to Alaska is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Alaska: AKA Your Next Adventure
Where will your Alaska adventure take you? Order our Official State of Alaska Vacation Planner and plot your course.